To install an internal blog isn’t always easy

Using blogs within a company can be a useful tool. Looking for a best practice example for a seminar I had some discussions around this topic. I recognized that it’s not easy to start and run a successful good blog. One example out of my projects shows that it can fail easily.

A business manager asked us for a blog. He wanted to install a 2-way communication with his 3000 employees. He was eager getting lots of comments. So we installed his blog and showed him how he can work with it. He was a good writer and found a good balance between business and private content. It looks really good, but he didn’t get comments. For sure, because he just started and his employees weren’t used to write something about an article which was written by the boss and to do it public.

I told him that this will happen before he started, but I think he expect more and faster response. He stopped writing after some weeks, because he was disappointed. This shows that it’s easy to convince someone to start a blog, but it isn’t to find someone doing it in a sustainable way.

At this time the project ended, but today I think we could have done something to avoid this result:

  • We should have shown him some examples which are showing the development of blogs and comments. These examples should make clear that you cannot expect too much comments and some time is needed until they start.
  • A monthly review meeting could be nice to discuss the blog and taking care about the further development
  • Suggestions for new articles or draft articles for the blog could have been delivered to him.
  • The communication people of his company could have been talking with employees to convince them writing comments
  • Communication could have done some comments to start it. Some critical comments are probably not bad as well.
  • More promotion within the company with the invitation to comment
  • He could have been added a call for comments on some articles. The best way is probably to ask specific questions.
  • We missed a good RSS reader within the company. I think it’s good to have several notification options. At least RSS and email needs to be available

Other topics are the technical features and the usability of the blogging tool. Working on the questionnaire of our Enterprise 2.0 vendor study 2011 we are thinking about the right topics to analyze it. These are our first thoughts about blogging functionality of the suites:

  • WYSIWYG Editor
    I don’t think that it’s needed for a blog, because the design of an article isn’t so important, but a preview option is useful to see how paragraphs and bullet lists appear. It’s more helpful for a wiki or a cms system.
  • Default fond or always using a standard fond
    We had problems copying text from other resource like MS Word into the blog. The fond appeared in several ways and to find the right fond wasn’t easy. It should not be like this. Content should always appear with the standard fond or a button “standard fond” should be available to correct fond problems.
  • Mobile access
    Especially manager normally don’t have much time to write posts. A Smartphone app or even better a iPad makes it possible writing post waiting for a plain or during a conference
  • Images and Videos
    Adding images and videos must be very easy. We had to store the image as resource and then copy the link and add this link to the blogging tool. Just browsing the hard disk and adding the image would be good. It would be nice to have the option to post images or videos direct from the Smartphone as well.
  • Tagging
    The author should be able to tag his posts, but it should also be possible that other people can do it afterwards. It will be helpful for the author to see these tags and for other user.
  • Managing posts and comments
    Comments needs to be redirected to the author immediately, because he has probably to react directly. The author needs an overview about his article and comments.
  • Spam filter
    I don’t think you need a spam filter using a blog within a company. It’s needed for the comments, if the blog should be used outside the firewall as well.
  • Adding other sections
    Blogs are not sending information in one direction only. A part of these “blogging network” is the blog roll or other sections which allows the author to connect his blog with other.
  • Categories
    Tagging is one ways to structure blog content, but tagging shouldn’t replace categories.
  • RSS feeds
    They should be available for tags, categories, comments and the complete blog
  • Usability
    Normally the editor is just a window where you can edit your text, but the buttons to format the text or adding something must be very clear. Other functions like managing posts needs to be self explaining.

These topics should reflect the functionality of the blogs. They should allow us to analyze it. Do you think that the list is complete or do you miss something?

I found this useful paper about business blogs. The principles are the same for internal and external ones:
New Rules of Business Blogs

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Joachim Lindner